Regular SOS readers may recall Paul Nagle's review of Sonokinetic's Tutti from the December 2011 issue. Tutti is a Kontakt-based library that Sonokinetic describe as an 'orchestral cinematic FX and textures' collection. The format of Tutti is not the more typical collection of multisampled playable orchestral instruments, but rather a collection of phrases played by a full orchestra and presented in a fashion that allows you to adjust key, tempo and the balance between the different orchestral sections. While this is perhaps oversimplifying a little, Tutti might also be described as a super-flexible orchestral loop library. The performances, however, are very realistic and can be used on their own or to add an extra bit of fairy dust to cues built from more conventional sample-based playable orchestral instruments.
In a similar format to Tutti, Sonokinetic have now released Vivace. In contrast to Tutti's dark and dramatic moods, Vivace concentrates upon somewhat lighter styles. While it doesn't go as far as comedy, I could easily imagine its performances supporting scenes depicting magical adventures, or even period drama.
Vivace requires Kontakt 5 (v.5.0.2 or better) but also works with the free Kontakt 5 player available from the Native Instruments web site. The library itself is a downloadable product and users can choose between 16- and 24-bit versions, or obtain both with a single purchase. For review purposes, I used the 16-bit version via the free Kontakt 5 player. This was a 9GB download, while the 24-bit library is double that. Unless you have ultra-fast broadband, grab a beer and some popcorn and stick a good film on while you download! That said, the process was very smooth and, once it was done, installation and activation were both painless.
The library is divided into three sections. The main section provides full tempo-sync'ed samples and is divided into eight sub-sections based on performance style. The majority of the individual phrases are short performances (for example, four and eight bars) and have been recorded in all keys. These can be switched via keyswitches in Kontakt. The eight sub-sections are titled Chord and Melody Ambiences, Chord Patterns, Expressionists and Tutti Suspense, Runs and Endings, Harmonics, Inceptive Brass, Shocks and Stabs and, finally, Transitions and Themes. The Inceptive Brass sub-section differs from the rest in providing a playable multisampled, multi-articulated instrument. It features sustained notes, staccato, and short and long crescendos, but in all cases the brass is big and full of growl. It sounds great but, obviously, will only suit certain musical contexts.
The Chord Patterns sub-section provides a good example of the structure of the rest of the tempo-sync'ed material. Five Kontakt patches are included, each named to indicate the style of the performances within the patch. So, for example, in addition to a couple of patches containing major-key chord progressions, there are also patches that contain minor key 'battles', 'mystery' and 'pursuit' styles. Once loaded, a patch contains multiple phrases, each triggered via a different MIDI key. Some performances also include variations — essentially, subtle twists on the main cue in terms of style or playing dynamics — and these can also be accessed via keyswitching. While each phrase sounds excellent in its own right, it is often possible to link between phrases (so that one flows into another) or even layer a couple of phrases over each other for extra flexibility. However, the real flexibility in comparison to a more traditional loop-library collection comes from the ability to adjust the balance between the different orchestral sections. The user can set levels for the low strings, high strings, woodwind, brass and percussion sections separately, and this adds considerably to the performance possibilities.
Aside from this main tempo-sync'ed material, the two other main sections are labelled DFD Tempo Lite and Vivace Bonus. The Lite material just duplicates the content of the main section, but has a lower RAM requirement, which is great if you're working on a more modest system. The 'bonus' material contains a small number of patches from Tutti, providing some very effective tension builders, orchestral hits, crescendos and glissandi clusters.
Samples aside, the Kontakt interface for Vivace includes four-band EQ and a convolution reverb, plus samples based on three different microphone positions — balcony, decca and wide — each producing a different sense of space. One further feature worth mentioning is that users can access a printed score for each section of each cue, which is very helpful when adding additional parts via your more traditional, playable orchestral sample-library collection.
So what to make of Vivace? The content is great, the performances and the sound quality are of the highest standard, and I would be more than happy to use these samples in a commercial context. I suspect that the library is most likely to appeal to busy media composers who might be looking to add some extra 'life' to their sample-based orchestral scores, and for those considering a purchase, there are some very useful audio demos on the Sonokinetic web site. If there is a down side to the library, it's one that applies to any performance-based sample collection: you have to work within the bounds of the musical phrases supplied. That said, what Vivace perhaps lacks in terms of the sheer number of performance phrases, it certainly makes up for in quality and realism. As a tool for adding a sense of a 'real' performance to a sample-based orchestral cue, it is very effective indeed. John Walden